More about Asian Art Museum

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Asian Art Museum benefits from an allegedly anti-Semitic art collector.

This beautiful museum is in the middle of San Francisco’s sketchy Tenderloin district and neighbor to crack addicts and prostitutes. The collection was started when Avery Brundage, the only American president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and a pentathlon and decathlon participant in the 1912 Summer Olympics, donated his collection of Asian art to San Francisco. Some speculate that Brundage was an anti-Semite because he fought so hard to let Nazi Germany host the Olympics and allowed a coach to replace two Jewish runners with African-American Ralph Metcalf and Jesse Owens. He never denied those accusations.

Brundage was able to use the tragedy of World War II to collect Asian art for cheap; while traveling through Asia for the IOC he obtained large collections when wealthy families started to lose their fortunes and had his pick of art from Japanese families who were sent to Internment camps in America.

While his collection was impressive he clearly needed an archivist, as parts of the collection were stored in shoeboxes under his bed.

The collection was first housed in a wing of the de Young museum in 1966, which it quickly outgrew. Tech entrepreneur Chong Moon Lee donated $15 million in 1995 to help jumpstart the inevitable $160 million renovation.

In 2003, Italian architect Gae Aulenti, who also renovated the Musee d’Orsay, converted San Francisco’s Main Library into the new museum.

According to the Internet this is “The world’s most comprehensive collection of Asian art in the world.” A quick look through a list of Asian art museums puts this one down at 20/22 in terms of collection size…so take that fact with a grain of salt.

Their weird upside-down “A” logo is the suggestion of a branding agency. Something about seeing art from a new perspective. I think it just looks stupid.

The museum is meant to be experienced by taking the escalators to the top floor and working your way down. I was distracted by the gorgeous Beaux-Arts grand staircase located at the front entrance and ended up going to the second floor then the third floor and then back down to the ground floor where the special exhibits are. I ended up walking a little more than I needed to and the collection still made sense but seeing it chronologically might've been better.

I only grabbed a cup of iced tea (it was an unusually hot day in SF) but like other San Francisco museums this cafe is mighty impressive. There are tons of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options to accomodate every fad diet. 

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Asian Art Museum (San Francisco)

The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco – Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture is a museum in San Francisco, California that specializes in Asian art. It was founded by Olympian Avery Brundage in the 1960s and has more than 18,000 works of art in its permanent collection, some as much as 6,000 years old. Its logo is an upside down letter A, which also looks like a letter V with a line through it.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Asian Art Museum (San Francisco)